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County lawyer to resign

Bill Buztrey, the county's longest-tenured government lawyer, announced Monday his intention to resign, effective Nov. 30, "to pursue other professional opportunities."

He did not indicate in his letter to County Attorney Garth Coller whether he had a new job lined up, and he declined to comment for a news article. Coller accepted Buztrey's decision and, in a letter, offered to help Buztrey find other employment.

Coller would not elaborate for the Times, saying his policy is to keep personnel matters private.

Coller has made it amply clear, however, that Buztrey had fallen into disfavor.

Though Coller rated Buztrey as average on job evaluations, he recently demoted Buztrey from chief assistant attorney to one of two senior assistants. He also removed Buztrey from many duties associated with the Planning and Zoning Commission, such as major ordinance writing, and placed partial blame on Buztrey for failings in the county gift policy that were discovered earlier this year.

Buztrey also came under fire in June for drafting and circulating among commissioners a resolution to oppose state bonds that would support affordable apartment complexes in Spring Hill. There was some concern that if he had gotten two or more commissioners to sign the document outside a commission meeting, he might have abetted a Sunshine Law violation.

The resolution never came before the commission for a vote. No one signed it in advance.

County Budget Director George Zoettlein, who lunches with Buztrey almost daily, said Buztrey's announcement came "out of the blue."

"They always look to see if there are opportunities in other places," Zoettlein said. "He's very dedicated. He spends long hours. I usually leave at 6 p.m., and sometimes he doesn't leave until 7:30 or 8. . . . He's always working, as far as I can see."

Jerry Greif, chief county planner, said Buztrey did a good job working with the Planning Department.

"I found Bill very easy to work with and usually very accessible," Greif said, expressing surprise at the resignation.

Former County Attorney Bruce Snow, who hired Buztrey, also offered praise.

"During my tenure as county attorney, I thought Mr. Buztrey was a valuable member of the County Attorney's Office," Snow said.

He added that Buztrey was a former Escambia County lead lawyer and brought skills from that experience. "He did a good job on behalf of Hernando County."

Buztrey joined Hernando County in May 1995. He was the sixth-highest paid employee, earning just more than $81,000 annually.

_ Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to